As you quiet yourself for this brief time, be willing to be open to God in whatever way that may take place.
Matthew 20:20-28 (NRSV)
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
As we reach chapter 20 in Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus on the cusp of arriving in Jerusalem to “speak truth to power” (as we might say today). Along the way, he’s been telling his disciples the importance of what he’s doing, what it will cost him, and inviting them to follow.
Evidently, James and John weren’t listening. Or maybe they listened only when Jesus said what they wanted to hear. In this story they remind me of the kind of disciple I don’t want to be.
If we want to be disciples who listen well to Jesus, from our text today we must hear his call to abandon desires for privilege and power and choose instead to serve one another. In a competitive culture where “ladder climbing” is considered normal, and we often envy those who get to the “top,” Jesus calls his followers to live differently. He doesn’t contrast good and bad exercises of privilege and power. He contrasts power and service. He calls us to form communities without structures of domination and subordination in which disciples choose service instead of power. There’s no ladder-climbing because there are no “ladders.” May we listen closely.
God of love and grace, who sent Jesus to live among us and serve (rather than be served), we long to follow Jesus faithfully but often have trouble hearing him, especially when he says something we’re not keen to hear. Give us the wisdom and courage to trust his call and to listen carefully to it. In particular may we hear—really hear—his counsel not to strive for power and privilege, but to choose service to one another as the highest calling in God’s realm. May we serve as he served, and do so as joyfully and faithfully as he did. Amen.
Go with God.